She's Leaving Home Hardcover – 3 Nov 2011
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'The author's astute observation underpins her clever, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant evocation of a coming of age' (Elizabeth Buchan Sunday Times)
'Bakewell is at her best evoking the excitement of the early days of television. Her most effective portraits are those of the Granada Studios. Bakewell vividly evokes the modernity of the building in Manchester, the vibrant atmosphere and the mingling of staff in the canteen . . . Bakewell's attention to detail is impeccable . . . [An] affectionate conjuring of an era gone by' (Samira Shackle New Statesman)
'Plenty of wry humour. Many of Joan Bakewell's observations and anecdotes also convey the distinct impression of personal experience - particularly once timid Martha reaches Liverpool, where she finds herself surprisingly at home among her new bohemian friends, her horizons broadened by such heady delights as poetry readings, CND protests, sex and Earl Grey tea' (Amber Pearson Daily Mail)
An accomplished writer of fiction on the evidence of this, her second novel . . . Bakewell conjures up Liverpool and a dreary nearby town in the early Sixties, sensitively portraying through her characterisation an era on the cusp between post-war privation and Sixties hedonism . . . Bakewell does capture both the intense self-absorption of the young and the disappointments of middle age in what is a very readable and perceptive novel (Vanessa Berridge Daily Express) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
* The wonderful new novel from Joan Bakewell, author of the acclaimed All the Nice GirlsSee all Product description
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Martha longs to escape and break free from the constraints of her background and, after an evening out watching a new band play at a local venue, she packs her bags and travels to Liverpool to stay with friends she has only just recently met. There, she starts what she believes to be an exciting new life, involving visits to coffee bars and night clubs, listening to the latest music (a mention of The Cavern and The Beatles, of course) and participating in CND marches in order to ban the bomb.
Joan Bakewell has been both a successful broadcaster and journalist and, as one would expect, this is a competently written book with a pleasant, cosy feel to it. An older friend of mine who remembers the early 60s, and who started reading this book immediately I had finished it, said it gave her a nice, nostalgic feeling and she thought there was an authenticity to the descriptions of clothes, interiors, food and so forth. I spent a pleasant evening reading this book, but I do have to say that, for me, this novel lacked a strong narrative drive. If you experienced the 1960s for yourself, this book may bring back some nice memories of that time; however, if you like your reading material to have a little more substance or grittiness to it, and you are interested in reading about life in the late 50s/early 6os, you might like to try:The L-Shaped Room and A Kind of Loving or perhaps Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
I read this book, or rather I forced myself it to read it to the end, more out of duty to Joan Bakewell than anything else. With her record I thought she might come up with something fascinating at the end, but no such luck. The book, from the first chapter is thoroughly BORING. Its attempt to paint a picture of innocence coupled with extreme good luck (the girl Martha, after a tepid home life in which nothing at all happens, find herself embraced by a group of people who are all sweet and kind and caring). I am exactly of that generation, 17 and in London in 1963. All the characters are irritatingly limp. I think the problem is that Joan was actually not of that generation - she was born in 1933, not in 1945 or 1946. She is the Pre-War generation, not a Baby-boomer. She might just about have made the Beatnik phase which preceded ours.
By the time the `Sixties' happened she was 30, nearly twice our age - in our eyes that was old. To us at the time we found anyone over the age of 28 bopping around the clubs in a mini skirt ever so slightly sad in their desperation to be 'with it'. And that is the problem, she wrote this story as an observer, not as a participant. The '60s were a time of unbridled energy, anyone intellectualising it was not really part of it.
I have huge respect and liking for Joan Bakewell and admire her work, but at least for this book, I must say that she is no novelist. If you want to know about a young girl's life in the early sixties, see Lynn Barber's wonderful An Education.
What makes me quite angry is that this book is published because of 'a name' wrote it, not because it is a good story well told. Agents and publishers turn down much better books, simply because authors are not household names.
Martha decides, unlike many young people of that era, that she has to leave home to get out of the cold married life of her parents and after a brief serendipitous meeting with a bunch of older, like-minded group of people, she does eventually get out of Staveley and move to Liverpool, where she she finds work, first, as an assistant to a costume/dress maker and subsequently, in a milk bar.
Her narrative is a 'rights of passage' where she is introduced to poets and musicians and engages in most of the events of that time: CND marches and protests, local Liverpool band The Beatles, as well as 'free love', all night parties and poetry reading clubs. Bakewell certainly has the writing style just right and without doubt, evokes the details and lifestyle of that era.
To be honest however, though I found the novel an easy and pleasant read, it was somewhat fragmented and I was disappointed in the plot-line and expected more - and better - from such an iconic broadcaster. Her debut novel, "All The Nice Girls" is a slightly better novel but, it proves something - at least for me - anyway , that just because someone is 'iconic' in one field, it doesn't mean that they will transfer those skills/attributes to another sphere.
In my opinion, "She's Leaving Home" (as many will know is one of the tracks from the Beatles' "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" album) is only an average novel. Indeed, McCartney articulates much much more in the three and a half minutes of that particular song than Bakewell manages in a couple of hundred pages of her novel.
Finally, Bakewell, in a scene depicting a potential rape of the lead character by a minor character - a musician, commits the mortal sin of spelling bass guitar 'base' guitar. McCartney and many other bass players would not be amused! Surprisingly, in that same scene, Bakewell uses the C*** word - a very rare occurrence in a female author.
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